Dale Holness speaks at the FITCE VIP Launch, June 2015
Dale Holness speaks at the FITCE VIP Launch, June 2015

Broward County Commissioner Dale V.C. Holness owns websites for an International Trade and Cultural Expo he hoped would be funded with taxpayer dollars. In June 2014, Holness asked the County Commission to support the Florida International Trade and Cultural Expo (FITCE) with funding used to celebrate the County’s Centennial celebration. Holness needed his fellow Commissioners’ approval for funding and use of the Broward County Convention Center.

Holness told Commissioners the expo attendees would, “learn directly from community leaders how to establish and grow their business in South Florida. The overall goal is to educate, promote and welcome international businesses to Broward County.” Holness claimed his expo would costs at least $250,000 to plan.

GOING ROGUE

His fellow Commissioners scoffed at his plan. Commissioner Lois Wexler accused Holness of “going rogue.” She said, ” I support the concept, but I — I — I really object to a Commissioner going out rogue.  I really do.” She objected to Holness’ partners in the expo.

Wexler said, “And the names that I see on this list, some of them I’m absolutely appalled, particularly since some of them are lobbyists. And — and — and — and I just don’t get it.  I just don’t get it.”

Commissioner Stacy Ritter was appalled by Holness’ budget. She said, “the budget is — is staggering.  It’s a huge investment from Broward County.  And we have limited funds. I’m not sure that we should be the ones to facilitate this, be the sponsor.” Ritter even questioned the need for the expo, stating, “If there’s a need for this, I wonder why it hasn’t percolated from the private sector.”

Holness agreed to have County staff review the proposal and bring it before the board at a later date. Holness put the the FITCE event on the December 2014 agenda.

“APPEARS NOT TO BE FEASIBLE”

Holness submitted the same proposal at the December 9, 2014 County Commission meeting with a few minor changes. He moved the event from May 2015 to October 2015. Commissioner Lois Wexler still was not buying it. She wondered why Holness did not include an October 2014 letter from County Staff regarding the expo. She said, “Well, this was a critical piece that wasn’t part of your packet, Commissioner Holness, because this really doesn’t recommend that we should move forward on this.” Wexler referred to an October 2014 review by the County Administrator’s office which said FITCE “appears not to be feasible.”

Wexler said the letter stated,” that there are many, many events.  It actually gives the number, fourteen conferences, that are similar and three that are scheduled that are almost identical in nature.”

Holness claimed the changing of the date made the expo more feasible. He claimed the expo would simply fall under the umbrella of the County while individual groups would plan the events. Holness stated he needed the approval to secure the convention center venue as well as help attract sponsors for the event.

Despite the serious misgivings, the County Commission approved Holness’ proposal.

HOLNESS OWNS FITCE WEBSITE DOMAINS

REDBROWARD found the domain name for the Florida International Trade and Cultural Expo (FITCEXPO.COM) is owned by County Commissioner Dale Holness. The domain name was purchased on February 14, 2015 from GoDaddy.com. Visitors to the website are given scant details of the event. A detailed list of sponsorship packages can be downloaded.

Sponsorship packages start at $5,000 and go up to $30,000 for the “Title Sponsor.”

REDBROWARD has uncovered at least seven other Holness-owned websites which redirect to the FITCE main site. Also purchased in February 2015, these domains include: FITCE.BIZ, FLORIDATRADEEXPO.COM, FLORIDATRADE.NET, FLORIDATRADEEXPO.NET, FLORIDATRADE.ORG, FITCEEXPO.BIZ, FLORIDAINTERNATIONALTRADE.BIZ and FLORIDAINTERNATIONALTRADE.COM.

Why is Commissioner Holness, a real estate agent, gobbling up international trade domain names?

Domain names are not free. Did Holness pay for these domain names out of his own pocket?

Was Holness paid for the use of these domain names?

Is Commissioner Holness running the FITCE website?

Is Commissioner Holness being paid to run the FITCE website?

Is Broward County Commissioner Dale V.C Holness making a single dime off an event held at a taxpayer-owned facility?

Broward voters deserve answers from Commissioner Dale Holness.